By Michael P Coleman

Stephen Kings IT Movie Poster 260Leave it to New York Times bestselling author Stephen King and Hollywood to serve up a clown that is more terrifying than the one in the Oval Office. 

In the first act of the excellent, gruesomely terrifying new adaptation of King’s 1986 novel, one of the film’s young protagonists gives a pointed exclamation to one of his friends:

“This is summer!  This is supposed to be fun!  This isn’t fun!  This is scary and disgusting!” 

I feel you, kid.  Summer is supposed to be a fun time at the movies, with superheroes and PG-rated adventure fare.  This new horror masterpiece has completely flipped that script. 

I will confess that I have typically not been a fan of theatrical adaptations of King’s wonderful novels.  For the most part, they have not lived up to their gloriously wicked source material.  But since I had not read King’s original novel, I thought I would give It’s demonic clown, Pennywise, a go at the theatre last night. 

“Last night.”  That was my first mistake.  If you are brave enough to see It, do yourself a favor and see an earlier show than the 7pm one I took in. Try a midday matinee, even.  That way, you won’t be like me, tossing and turning in bed, and jumping at every creak in my house until well past 3am when I was mercifully allowed to fall asleep. 

It tells the story of a group of kids who must face their biggest fears, the manifestation of which is, frankly, one scary clown who is brilliantly brought to life by actor Bill Skarsgârd.  There’s actually a name for the irrational fear of clowns:  coulrophobia.  I hadn’t been afflicted with it, although many people are.  In fact, I never quite understood how anyone could be afraid of anything as simple as a clown.  After last night at the movies, I get it, and realize that clowns like Pennywise are anything but simple.  I will never look at a clown — or a sewer grate — the same way again. 

Skarsgârd’s performance is not the film’s only standout.  Every child actor among It’s ensemble is exceptional.  The viewer falls in love with each of the kids quickly and completely, making the menaces they face even more painful to watch.  The kids also provide just the right amount of comic relief at just the right times during the film’s narrative.  Without a raucous laugh of two along the way, Pennywise might prompt a heart attack well before the final credits roll.  

At another point during It, a character says “Leave it to a little fear to make a paper man crumble.”  Just call me a paper man, as by the movie’s thrilling climax, I wanted to huddle behind the seat in front of me and make It all just go away.

“Please, Jesus,” I whimpered near the back of that darkened movie theater, to a deity who doesn’t hear from me nearly as much as I have heard He wants to, “just make it all just go away.” 

God answers prayers.  The lights eventually came up.  And some night very soon, I know, I’ll get a good night’s sleep. 

See It.  I dare you. 

It is playing — and breaking records — in theaters nationwide.